But many can recall the consequence. In that turbulent year, not only did Barisan Nasional component parties turn against each other, but Umno tore itself apart from infighting, and survived only because Abdullah chose nobly to fall on his sword.
The recent call by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for his supporters to remain loyal to the party indicates a recollection of these events from 2006.
Two general elections later to the present day, social media disseminates every sceptical view of reality without being questioned as to its scruple or credulity.
This is because this scurrilous “public opinion” can be seen, on the one hand, to serve political ends, and, on the other, to obscure the individual’s experience of the past.
If there are few people who remember the events from 2006, there are probably fewer who can understand the events from 1987-88. In 2006, Najib and Muhyiddin evoked these events to warn against self-destruction.
For the same reasons, recalling them tries to remedy the misconceptions of the present day. The Umno rupture of 1987 between the Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah-Tun Musa Hitam and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad-Tun Ghafar Baba groups is often represented by analysts as a conflict of personalities.
Yet there lies a fundamental difference of political approach between them. In the wake of 1969, there had emerged two philosophies about the future of the Malay individual.
One looked to corporatise finance, consolidate natural resources and nationalise primary industry. This initiative achieved a measure of success in the 1970s through Petronas, Bank Bumiputra, Sime Darby and Felda.
Tun Dr Mahathir correctly saw bureaucratism and gradualism set into this approach, and in the 1980s, his system of privatisation and industrialisation introduced a dynamic thrust to national development.
Unfortunately, both developmental philosophies diverged sufficiently to set up a clash in 1987. The arguments against government-led privatisation pointed to income disparity and the unsustainable scale of debt-financing that the system entailed.
Both were demonstrated when our government-linked companies floundered during the 1997 Asian Crisis, and the subsequent expulsion of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as deputy prime minister instigated the largest expression of Malay dissent in Malaysian history.
The lesson is not that one mode of governance is superior to the other, but that each had, in its time, been appropriate for the nation.
In 2006, Abdullah appeared to try to maintain both systems in the Ninth Malaysia Plan. The fallout, which followed, shows its impracticability.
Just as the 1980-90s reformed the faults of the 1960-70s, so in the present day we should look to a system that reforms the faults of the 1980-90s.
That is the task of the present administration. In their appeals to their party to unite and raise themselves above jealousy and rumour, Najib and Muhyiddin refer to this larger picture, this greater good.
Government cannot begin to execute policy if the party is not whole. Malays (and, by virtue of Malays, non-Malays) need to remember that the story of nation-building, in which they are central, is not a concluded story.
No opinion is self-evident; there is no right or wrong approach as to how nation-building must proceed.
But if the truth of the Malay dilemma of the post-colonial era is forgotten, then no approach whatsoever will ever be adequate in comparison to colonial governments. Ng Tze Shiung Petaling Jaya, Selangor NST Letters 3 August 2015